Ancient Remedies Found in Shipwreck

An ancient doctor likely knew the composition of the medicines loaded aboard a doomed ship preparing to sail into the Mediterranean. But it would be another approximately 2,200 years until anyone else learned the ingredients of the six grey pills, which were lost beneath the waves along with the rest of the ship, known as the “Relitto del Pozzino.”

A team of Italian archeologists, chemists and biologists deciphered the chemical clues to the composition of an ancient medicine packed in the cargo of a ship sunk in 18 meters (59 feet) of water off the coast of Tuscany.

The six flat disks were held in a tin container which was probably once held in a larger wooden box that rotted away. Other medical implements of the time were found nearby.

Discovery News reported on an earlier study that discovered the medicine contained a mixture of mineral and plant materials, but not exactly which chemicals.

The most abundant ingredients were zinc compounds. Zinc compounds, called “calmina,” were popular in ancient medicine just as they are today in the form of calamine lotion, or zinc oxide.

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